Boris Johnson tops first round of voting for next UK PM

Boris Johnson is making promises he cannot keep says UK leadership rival Stewart

Boris Johnson is making promises he cannot keep says UK leadership rival Stewart

Boris Johnson took a commanding lead Thursday in the contest to become Britain's next prime minister, winning by far the largest share of support in first-round voting by Conservative Party lawmakers.

Finance minister Philip Hammond, who has not publicly endorsed a candidate, wrote on Thursday to all remaining leadership contenders to urge them to stick to existing budget rules until at least the next scheduled election in 2022.

The outcome, if repeated in subsequent rounds which will further whittle down the field starting next Tuesday, is above the 105 votes Johnson would need to make the final two.

Matt Hancock, Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid, Michael Gove, Dominic Raab and Rory Stweart will proceed to the next stages.

Conservative MPs hold their first secret ballot in the governing party's leadership contest as they begin whittling down the contenders. "I am delighted to win the first ballot, but we have a long way to go", Johnson said on Twitter. Jeremy Hunt finished second with 43, followed by Michael Gove with 37.

In an interview with Sky News, Stewart was asked to respond to suggestions that Johnson, the former foreign secretary, would go ahead with such a drastic course of action to resolve Brexit.

Mark Harper, the former immigration minister who resigned after finding out his cleaner was not legally allowed to work in the United Kingdom, followed McVey out of the race, garnering just 10 votes.

Hunt, who has pitched himself as a unifier of both Brexit-supporting and pro-EU Conservatives, warned members of the party that "the stakes have rarely been higher for our country".

There are calls for the four candidates at the bottom of the results table to drop out and speed up the process of selecting the next leader.

The victor of the contest to succeed Theresa May is expected to be announced in the week of 22 July.

Gove, Britain's environmental secretary, suggested he could make up ground in upcoming debates.

Leadsom, Harper, and McVey failed to receive the required minimum of 17 votes.

Mr Stewart, who has won plaudits for his energetic campaign but struggled to secure support from his fellow MPs, insisted "we can win this".

Caroline Lucas MP, leading supporter of the People's Vote campaign, said it was wrong that just 0.25% of the population are deciding the public's future. "I'm the change candidate who can be trusted to deliver Brexit by October, and has the vision and energy to take Britain forward".

Stewart, who has criticised Johnson for making promises on Brexit he can not keep, voiced optimism about his campaign: "This is unbelievable - we're getting some real momentum here".